Latest BLOG POSTS

Energy, Growth, and Altruism: Forty Years On

Editor's note: This is the first of a two-part series by the author. Up next: "Energy, Growth, and Altruism: The View from 2016."  Forty-one years ago, George P. Mitchell, the philanthropist, scientist and businessman announced the creation of the George and Cynthia Mitchell Prize to... Read More >


Measuring the “impact” of environmental investment

Traditional measures of success for investment dollars fall short of measuring the true impact of environmental improvement. Even the language used in the private sector—as well as government and NGOs—is not appropriate. We’re thinking of a “return on investment” or... Read More >


Summertime Reading: The Economic Argument for Environmental Protection

We've curated a number of posts from the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation's current blogging initiative, "The Economic Argument for Environmental Protection," a collection of opinions from the foundation and leading economists and business and environmental experts. George Mitchell, who was... Read More >


Chemical footprinting: A business practice that's more than just eliminating hazardous chemicals

Chemical footprinting is about much more than just identifying and eliminating hazardous chemicals. Chemical Footprint Project’s assessment tool focuses on four key elements: 1.  Management strategy: scope of chemical policies, incentives, integration of policies into business strategy... Read More >


Why the chemical footprint movement is good for pubic health, business, and the environment

Walmart announced recently that it has removed 95 percent of the 10 highest priority chemicals targeted by its pioneering Sustainable Chemistry Policy. This is striking progress, as Walmart announced its goal to eliminate these chemicals just two years ago. It is a reminder of the power of major... Read More >


The best solution for "wicked" environmental problems?

Some environmentalists claim that more environmental protection always or almost always is a means to a stronger economy. That’s silly. Digging coal out of the ground, burning natural gas to power cities, and cutting down trees to build houses all have environmental tradeoffs and yet, from a... Read More >


Sustainability: How to get from here to there (part two)

Hope is different than optimism. Optimism springs from confidence based on a technical assessment that you’re doing things that have worked in the past and thus you can rationally say, “This is going to work.” Hope is a belief in the rightness of what you’re doing,... Read More >


Sustainability: How do we get from here to there

When we go into a company and try to change its sustainability strategy, we are working from a personal theory of change that reflects how we see the world and how we engage with it. It defines who we are and how we accomplish our life’s work. And in many ways it defines what we will become.... Read More >


An issue that's good for the environment, your pocketbook, and the economy

We live in a polarized political and economic age—particularly in the state of Texas—where renewables are either a godsend or a pipedream, or fossil fuels are our economic bedrock or a climate change disaster. So, it’s refreshing when an issue is good for both the environment and... Read More >


Reducing barriers to, and financial costs of, renewable energy by protecting local ecosystems

There is no question that the environment or, in more precise terms, ecosystem services, hold great financial value. Clean air, clean water, the bats and bees that pollinate agricultural crops, the trees that absorb carbon dioxide—they all deliver benefits to the global economy. One estimate... Read More >


The idea of a public good

One of the key concepts needed to better understand the economic argument for environmental protection is the idea of a public good. When economists talk about public goods, they don’t mean just anything that’s good for the public, such as a school or hospital. Rather, to qualify as a... Read More >


The economics of the 'economic argument for environmental protection'

Doubtlessly few of this blog’s readers have taken a course in environmental economics, but as the commentaries on this blog indicate, grounding in the principles of environmental economics would be very helpful in wading through proposals for or against environmental protection. And given how... Read More >


How expensive is bad science?

In 2000, when Houston surpassed Los Angeles in the number of “high ozone days” for the first time, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) submitted their State Implementation Plan (SIP) for reducing ozone to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The plan included a ban... Read More >


Finally, clean energy opportunities meet the risk-return requirements of investors. Now what?

The global climate agreement adopted in Paris in December is far more than just a roadmap for tackling climate change. It’s also a blueprint for rethinking how we bring energy to 1.3 billion people who live without electricity—a significant barrier to eradicating global poverty. On both... Read More >


The basis for a sustainable power supply solution?

Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part series by the City of Georgetown's Chris Foster and consultants Larry Lawrence and Neil McAndrews examining how Georgetown, Texas became a 100 percent renewable city while pursuing least-cost economic goals. Click to read part one... Read More >


Finally, a utility's bottom line driven by 100% renewables -- in Texas, of all places

Editor's note: This is the first of a two-part series by the City of Georgetown's Chris Foster and consultants Larry Lawrence and Neil McAndrews examining how Georgetown, Texas became a 100 percent renewable city while pursuing least-cost economic goals. Up next: a look at how Georgetown Utility... Read More >


Solutions to climate change must come from the market and, more specifically, from business

Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part series by the author focused on the debate over capitalism’s role in our present climate change problem. Click to read part one of the series, “Capitalism must evolve to solve the climate crisis.” __________ Going beyond our... Read More >


Capitalism must evolve to solve the climate crisis

Editor's note: This is the first of a two-part series by the author focused on the debate over capitalism’s role in our present climate change problem. Up next: "Solutions to climate change must come from the market and, more specifically, from business" __________ There are two extremes in... Read More >


SCOTUS can't stop states from growing clean energy markets

Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part series by the author focused on the use of limited public dollars to leverage large private investments that accelerate growth of clean energy markets. Click to read part one of the series, "Cleaner and Cheaper Energy with Green Banks." __________ ... Read More >


Cleaner AND Cheaper Energy with Green Banks

Editor's note: This is the first of a two-part series by the author focused on the use of limited public dollars to leverage large private investments that accelerate growth of clean energy markets. Up next: "SCOTUS can't stop states from growing clean energy markets." __________ For decades the... Read More >


The environment as an asset to economic prosperity and development

The idea of environmental preservation as an asset, as opposed to an impediment, to economic prosperity and development is both very old and very new. For the greater part of human history, certainly up until the start of the Industrial Revolution, the benefits humans derived from nature were well... Read More >


Is there an economic argument for environmental protection?

George Mitchell was fond of posing the question, “If you can’t make the world work with six billion people, how are you going to make it work with ten billion?”He knew that true sustainability ensures human well-being through social and economic systems while also maintaining the... Read More >


CGMF's Top Blog Posts of 2015

What does ‘getting gas right,’ water infrastructure, improving the conservation narrative, and outlawing legal loopholes have in common? They are subjects addressed in the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation’s top blog posts of 2015—opinions penned by influencers from a... Read More >


Let’s ‘get gas right’ and exploit synergies of natural gas and renewables

The energy landscape in the United States is changing. Renewable technologies like wind and solar power are on the rise, and so is natural gas. Together, these transformative trends have led to recent reductions in U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) outputs. In Texas, where wind power and natural gas are... Read More >


Pride, passion, and vision in the Texas Hill Country

There’s a lot of love and pride in the Texas Hill Country. It’s a place of rugged beauty, cool, clear swimming holes, and passionate people. Putting that love, pride, and passion into action toward a common vision is what the Hill Country Alliance (HCA) is all about. For past... Read More >


Solar energy shines bright in Texas

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is the electric grid operator for about 80 percent of Texas’s land mass, and 90 percent of the state’s power use.  Over the last fifty years, most of the power in ERCOT has come from natural gas and coal, with some from two large... Read More >


Understanding the synergies of the Texas water-energy-land nexus

The state of Texas has an independent streak. Its possession of water and energy to a large extent are homegrown (and, obviously, so is its land). In regard to water resources, with the exception of the Rio Grande River to the southwest and the Red River on the northern border, nearly all the water... Read More >


Hey Texas, what about climate change?

Water is a critical resource for many sectors of the economy. Besides being used to provide basic residential services, it is widely used for industrial processes, agricultural irrigation, power generation, and livestock production. Irrigation has consistently been the largest user of water in the... Read More >


When it rains, it pours: Why Texas needs to invest in better water infrastructure

Recently, more than 125,000 gallons of raw sewage overflowed in downtown Houston, the result of Hurricane Patricia-related rain swamping the sewage system.  The sheer volume of stormwater transmitted by roads and parking lots into sewers overwhelmed the capacity of the system and sewage was... Read More >


Autumn Reading: Achieving a Sustainable Texas

We've curated a number of posts from the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation's current blogging initiative, "Achieving a Sustainable Texas," a collection of opinions from the foundation and foundation grantees. George Mitchell, who was credited with pioneering the economic extraction of shale... Read More >


How Texas escaped the crippling effects of the 2030-2032 drought

Austin (October 21, 2032)—Despite three years of record-breaking drought, and a number of areas throughout the United States being severely impacted, the state of Texas is poised to move forward relatively unscathed. So, how did a state hard hit by drought and not known for its environmental... Read More >


A better solution: (Intentional) Integrated Systems for Energy Water Nexus

For managing challenges at the energy-water nexus, we need to move from an interconnected world to an integrated world.   For an interconnected world, energy depends on water and water depends on energy. There are some advantages from this approach.  For example, water can be used to... Read More >


Beyond Technological Optimism: Redefining Science and Engineering in Environmental Sustainability

Much of the early academic dialogue in regard to advancing environmental sustainability centered on the role of technology. Many cast technology as central to improving the environment. Others were skeptical, noting the unintended consequences that accompany technological development and their... Read More >


A plan that doesn't account for all environmental needs doesn't hold water

With only limited exceptions, surface water law in Texas, like other western states, is based on a first-in-time, first-in-right principle. Basically, the first user of water from a stream or river has the senior priority to get water and, if there isn’t enough to go around, the users with the... Read More >


Confidence in Conservation: The Way Forward for Texas

In an unprecedented move, California Governor Jerry Brown recently issued a sweeping executive order to reduce municipal water consumption by 25 percent throughout the state. The “drought of the century” forced the administration to mandate that California water districts follow more... Read More >


Bridging the energy and environmental disconnect

The energy and environmental decisions facing society and its leaders are no longer decided by titanic, lopsided, high stakes political lobbying contests alone. Science, opinion, and dollars now flow both ways on nearly every energy and environmental issue we face. And, the frontlines of energy and... Read More >


Grand challenges for Water, Texas

In 1928, an oil company laid a pipeline from New Mexico to the Houston Ship Channel to carry crude from the field to the refineries along the coast. The route of the line brought it across Gillespie County, Texas where the Pedernales River begins about an hour and a half from Austin.  At that... Read More >


Making the "invisible" nature of the water-energy relationship "visible"

The severity of the current drought in California compels an aggressive statewide effort to conserve water. In fact, the California Governor’s recently declared an unprecedented executive order (B-29-15) mandating a 25 percent statewide reduction in urban water use. 

 Meanwhile,... Read More >


Summertime reading: Achieving a Sustainable Texas

We've curated posts from the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation's current blogging initiative, "Achieving a Sustainable Texas," a collection of opinions from the foundation and a number of the foundation's grantees. George Mitchell, who was credited with pioneering the economic extraction of... Read More >


Why big data is key to maximizing water conservation's impact

In places like Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia and Texas, water supplies are declining even while cities continue to grow. For the first time, parts of the United States face a real risk of running out of water. What if it were possible to head off catastrophic water shortages... Read More >


A Day in the Life: What it Means to Advocate for the Environment

Being an environmental advocate in Texas may seem like an uphill battle, and I make no bones about the fact it most certainly is. The current political climate nationwide makes it a challenge wherever you are, but Texas is a special case. Texans pride ourselves on our uniqueness; we do everything... Read More >


Addressing the "unconventional" through science & technology

The global demand for efficient and reliable energy continues to increase as many nations try to identify an appropriate mix of energy sources to meet the daily needs of their populations and to contribute toward long-term security and economic growth.  A number of interdependent factors... Read More >


What is a conservative after all but one who conserves

"What is a conservative after all but one who conserves..." -Ronald Reagan The conservation of natural resources is not, and should not be, a partisan issue. Both Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, want a strong economy, and an economy with excess waste is not as strong as it... Read More >


Water for shale oil and gas production: Can it be managed more sustainably?

The United States is becoming energy independent largely due to a technology that combines horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing.  At a recent public meeting I posed a question to the audience, “How much water is used in hydraulic fracturing?” I received a quickly delivered,... Read More >


What should Texas do about integrated water-energy policy decisions?

When considering linkages and tradeoffs of water and energy objectives, the usual discussion among colleagues, industry, and government agencies is that we should search for holistic “win-win” situations—a simultaneous beneficial outcome for both energy and water goals.   ... Read More >


One way to reduce dangerous pollution from Texas coal plants? Outlaw legal loopholes

Coal combustion is dirty business. This is neither new nor surprising information. Combustion of fossil fuels for electric generation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and coal is the worst offender. In Texas, lax regulatory oversight and continued use of... Read More >


Note to Industry: Regulation and business success are not mutually exclusive

Today’s public is demanding more from corporate America than ever before: They expect transparency, accountability, and a commitment to operating responsibly. Across industries, securing the public license to operate is essential to ensuring a strong corporate reputation and long-term... Read More >


Integrating sustainability science into grantmaking

In the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation’s (CMGF) inaugural blog post on January 14, 2014, we described George P. Mitchell’s role in launching the field of sustainability science. Inspired by George’s leadership in this endeavor and to honor his legacy, concepts of... Read More >


Delaware River Watershed: A Watershed in Transition

It was the kind of announcement that would have been unheard of even a couple of years ago. Ann Mills, USDA Deputy Under Secretary, stood before 100 beaming watershed practitioners in January in Pennsylvania’s Poconos to say the Delaware River Watershed had been awarded three grants totaling... Read More >


Courage, Climate Change, and Large Landscape Conservation

George P. Mitchell, the son of Greek immigrants who was born in Galveston, Texas in 1919, was a man of remarkable courage and persistence. He bootstrapped his way through Texas A&M University, graduating first in his class in petroleum engineering. He then joined the firm that became Mitchell... Read More >


An opportunity: Private sector investments in abandoned mine land restoration

Working Lands Investment Partners, LLC completed a U.S. Forest Service grant entitled "Private Sector Investments in Abandoned Mine Land Restoration: Identifying Barriers and Opportunities." The results of this comprehensive analysis identified the potential for significant positive returns by... Read More >


Improving the conservation narrative: What we say vs. what the public hears

“Where does all the weight in this log come from?” I ask, struggling to lift the biggest tree log I can wrestle in front of a crowd at a local civic club in rural Florida. “Water! Rain! Nutrients! Soil! Fertilizer! Roots!” they shout, fully engaging. I wait for the... Read More >


CGMF's top blog posts of 2014

What do ecosystems, big data, sustainability science, and the "triple bottom line" have in common? They were all subjects covered in the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation's top blog posts of 2014—topics that explored the limits of human capacity to create a sustainable... Read More >


Rethinking business as usual

The way we produce food is getting a lot of attention these days, and for good reason. If current projections hold, we’ll have nine billion mouths to feed by 2050—two billion more than we have today.  Throughout history, when we’ve needed to expand food production,... Read More >


Exploring the connections between nature and our health

More than one-third of Houston-area children are overweight or obese, a startling statistic that is common to many communities across the U.S. Moreover, more than three-quarters of our children are not getting the level of physical activity recommended to maintain a healthy weight.  What does... Read More >


Deep in the heart of the Land of Bears and Honey

In 1984, Joe Truett and Daniel Lay, authors of “Land of Bears and Honey: A Natural History of East Texas,” put to paper what many old-timers in East Texas had quietly observed for decades—the ebbing of a Garden of Eden at the hands of humans:  “When white people... Read More >


One thing Americans can agree on

Politicians, pundits and ordinary people are scanning the horizon for clues about the deeper meaning of the November 4 election. Are voters shifting to the right, or did the Republican gains in the House and Senate primarily reflect dissatisfaction with an unpopular Democratic president?  With... Read More >


Will Texans ever see land as a community to which we belong?

Last February, I took Jack Ward Thomas, former Chief of the U.S. Forest Service and my graduate school advisor, on a road trip through the Texas Hill Country. It was his first time to visit that area since working for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in Llano, Texas in the 1960s. As expected,... Read More >


A fish story without exaggeration!

Does locavore salmon raised in the American Midwest sound counterintuitive?  If so, does the potential for farm-raised fish contributing to the heartland's economy and agriculture sound equally far-fetched? Both possibilities are not just fanciful, but are beginning to happen, especially as... Read More >


Providing 'conservation' to the consumer

Next time you open a bar of chocolate, think about how it smells, how it tastes, and then think about where it comes from, particularly about the farmer that grew the cocoa beans. Whether it was in Ecuador, West Africa or Indonesia, your chocolate bar was once a cocoa pod, grown by a small farmer... Read More >


Keeping open space open

While it is easy to imagine that rural Texans and urban Texans are separated by insurmountable barriers of concrete and experience, it's simply not true. We stand on common ground. As humans, we all need the same things: healthy food, serviceable clothing, protective shelter, clean water, and... Read More >


Working lands stewardship

Working lands. Stewardship. These are words that we in the conservation field use frequently, but to those who live in the cities, the terminology can be confusing.   So, first, a primer.  “Working lands” means pretty much like it sounds: farms and ranches where the... Read More >


Together, we can advance conservation

The Cynthia & George Mitchell Foundation is a leader in conservation. Their programs for water, sustainability science, clean energy, and natural gas show their commitment to improving our land. And the personal and touching story of how Cynthia and George developed the Cook’s Branch... Read More >


The many voices of conservation

Fifty years ago, Cynthia and George Mitchell fell in love with a piece of the Texas Piney Woods that would eventually evolve into Cook’s Branch Conservancy.  They were captivated by the diversity and beauty of the landscape, and spent the rest of their lives protecting this forest and... Read More >


Leveraging social innovation for sustainable change

A new era in sustainability innovation is emerging. Our fascination with technology has by no means come to an end, but there is a rapidly expanding realization that social innovation and human behavior are keys to achieving a more sustainable future. Technology alone just isn’t going to cut... Read More >


The ebb and flow of a sustainable water plan

Texas has been engaged in planning for future water needs for over 50 years. Beginning in 1961, the plans were developed at the state level, through various predecessor agencies to the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) and the TWDB itself.   In 1997, the year of the last state-developed... Read More >


Quiet collaboration; big impact

I have written about collaboration in a number of blogs, focusing on its criticality to helping society achieve sustainability. I remain convinced of this and always want to shine the light on glowing examples of collaboration in action. One such example is the National Academies’ Roundtable... Read More >


Delivering products we need, instead of products we have

An amazing revolution in automotive technology is underway—with important lessons for policymakers. The many technology advancements taking place today in the automobile industry are concrete evidence that strong government leadership and ambitious public policy can drive innovation. It is a... Read More >


Plan B: Let's be honest for a change

Moving the global economy off its current decline-and-collapse path depends on reaching four goals: (1) stabilizing climate, (2) stabilizing population, (3) eradicating poverty, and (4) restoring the economy’s natural support systems. These goals—comprising what the Earth Policy... Read More >


The Sustainability Trajectory

In 2012, a little bakery just north of New York City became the first business licensed in New York State as a Benefit Corporation.  Thus Greyston Bakery joined companies like Patagonia, Etsy, and Ben & Jerry’s in advancing a fundamentally new model for business that focuses as much... Read More >


Banks: A market-driven path to a Clean Trillion?

Do banks care about the environment? At Citi, we believe that working to promote sustainability— both for our firm and our client base—is good business practice. We also care about the environment because our stakeholders in both the public and private sectors care about it—our... Read More >


The dawning of Big Data in a sustainable world

This is the age of Big Data. Vast, complex sets of information can be gathered, sorted and (most importantly) used, by a public eager to swap verbiage for science.  And yet, in the energy-environment world, crucial data are often unavailable. Americans should be able to access far more... Read More >


The value of water: Making the market work in Texas

One of the most fascinating challenges of sustainability is the integration of market system thinking with an ecologist’s understanding of natural processes.  No subject highlights this challenge more than supplying water for Texas’s future. According to most economists, the market... Read More >


Moving past yesterday's solutions for tomorrow's problems

The state of Texas is trying to solve future water supply problems with yesterday’s solutions. Innovative approaches to Texas’s future water security represent only a small portion of strategies presented in the current State Water Plan. Over 50% of future water supply projects intended... Read More >


Our Common Journey: The birth of sustainability science

Fifteen years ago the National Academy of Sciences joined with George Mitchell and the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation to jointly produce a study entitled Our Common Journey.  Our world as we saw it in 1999 was already in transition, becoming more crowded and more consuming, warmer and... Read More >


High tech bringing fundamental changes to energy systems

If ever there was a sign that the oil industry is headed for a period of transformational change, that sign is the news that ExxonMobil is giving in to activist shareholders and will start to publish more information for investors on the risks that stricter limits on greenhouse gas emissions would... Read More >


When capitalists call for market revolutions

The world must be in trouble if capitalists are beginning to call for “market revolutions.” Peter Bakker, President of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, calls for a “revolution of capitalism.” Markets, he argues, must learn how to value and manage... Read More >


Sustainability: A means to a resilient U.S. Army

A sustainable world means that our resources are in balance.  The Army strives to balance our use of resources. When our resources are in balance, when we have assured access to reliable supplies of energy and water, we are a more resilient Army.  The Army prioritizes incorporating... Read More >


The paradox of limits to growth

Editor’s Note: This opinion was originally published on August 13, 2013, and is being republished for this initiative with the author’s permission.  George and Cynthia Mitchell convened the first The Woodlands Conference, a symposium addressing the issues of sustainable... Read More >


The power of environmental DNA

Information about the living world—and about our effects on that world—is essential to responsible management of our natural resources. While technological advances of past decades have revolutionized our understanding of physical processes (think of satellite storm-tracking, for... Read More >


Climate change: Look past rhetoric and act now

When you know a dangerous storm is coming, you prepare, right? You seal your doors and windows and make sure your loved ones are out of harm’s way. If you’re building a home on the coast, you think about those storms in advance and pay attention to sea level changes and the risk of storm... Read More >


Six steps closer to a sustainable world

Many organizations like the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation have long recognized the urgency of and need to achieve more sustainable management of global society, and have been valuable in advancing the science of sustainability both within and outside government.   History provides an... Read More >


A sustainable planet: Seeking our true north

"I have people ask me all the time: George, why in the world are you so interested in sustainability? And I quote Buckminster Fuller: 'If you can’t make the world work with six billion people, then how will you make it work with ten billion people? And, what are you going to do about it?' And... Read More >


blog posts
© 2012-2016 Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.